So you want to be a writer, huh?

When I was younger, I remember I made a list of all the things I wanted to be. My criteria was not too stringent; the career had to have a name that was long enough to impress the adults the asked me what I saw myself doing as an adult, but it still had to be easily pronounceable. It had to be something that did not involve the ocean (I was deathly afraid of whales). I went through different phases, doing my best to find the coolest, and driest careers. But when I started high school I had to start thinking about how I was actually going to make a living. My career options became less adventurous and much more grounded (both literally and figuratively). An unfortunately reality; we need money.

If you plan on making a career of writing or wish to write while pursuing another passion, you can’t ignore the unfortunate truths of adult life. But just because we can’t all live romantic lives writing and reading all day in our beautiful studies with mahogany desks (goals) doesn’t mean we can’t be writers. In fact, most writers have other jobs, some careers even.For many of them, there day jobs and careers actually add depth to their writing and their experiences serve as inspiration. For example, John Green’s experiences working in a hospital inspired “The Fault in Our Stars”.  The links below will lead you to discussion about how to make sure adulthood doesn’t weaken your writing hand. For those of you who plan on becoming writers, there is no reason that you can’t. And for those of us who may not plan on making a career of my writing, that doesn’t mean we have to stop becoming better writers.

How To Become A Prolific Writer While Holding Down A Day Job – This posts provides inspiration for who you can not only continue writing while you work, but how you can pursue your dreams of becoming a writer. It also shares the experiences and stories of famous writers who wrote some of their bestselling novels while working a day job.

Writing With a Day Job– This discussion is for those who are interested in having a career outside of writing but still wish to keep writing. I have other passions, and the reality is those other passions are much more secure and stable. Bransford argues in his blog post that this security is what gives him the freedom to write.

How to Become a Writer as a Second Career– While my last post was reassurance for those who may want to continue writing but have other plans for the future, this post is for those who see writing as their future. The commitments of the real world may be a drag, but they shouldn’t keep you from writing.

Some Motivation– Lastly, a (kind of cliche) motivational video to keep the spirits up. I hope my last post isn’t a disheartening one. By bringing up the reality of what the real world holds for us after we graduate, I hope to help remind everyone to prepare, so that they can continue doing and pursuing what they are truly passionate about.


Reading Recommendation: “Light is Like Water”- Gabriel García Márquez

Light is Like Water– Gabriel García Márquez

Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Many you may be familiar with Gabriel Garcia Marquez and his work. He is a Nobel laureate in literature and one of the most influential and preeminent writers of Magical Realism. He is the author of the novel “One Hundred Years of Solitude” and a number of short stories, including “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings” . Odds are you’ve read some of his work, if not on your own, then for an assignment in a previous English course. Magical realism is type of fiction writing in which a very real world is colored with elements of fantasy and magic. The narrator of the story makes no discrepancy between the elements of the story that are familiar to us and those that are strange, and fantastical events are presented in a realistic tone. In a majority of Marquez’s work, reality is a central theme and the reality of his writing is what carries the theme of his stories.

“Light is Like Water” is a story of two brothers who, as a reward for their performance in school, get a rowboat. They then break open the light fixtures in their home and let light flood their home like water and sail the light. One night, the children flood their house with so much light that they drowned their classmates.

This story is a great example of how seamlessly Marquez brings toward our world and the world that children imagine. The fantastical events that comprise this story are obviously abnormal and unbelievable, but they are not for children. The reason these children are sailing on a sea of light is because the narrator has told them that “Light is like water. You turn the tap on and out it comes.” The boys have taken a literary interpretation of the narrator’s analogy.

This story was uncomfortable to read the first time because of the dissonance between how realistically all the events of the story were described and my intuition. After the third read-through, I became a little more grounded and could interpret the story. I’m interested in hearing your opinions and thoughts on this story, and how you felt as your tried to pick apart this world.

Interview with Junot Diaz

BOMB Artists in Conversation – Junot Diaz

Considering this week’s reading assignment, I saw it fitting to share an interview with Junot Diaz, the author of “How to Date a Brown Girl.”

This isn’t really an interview as much as it’s a conversation between two writers; Diaz, and Edwidge Danticat, a Haitian-American author. During their discussion, they talk Diaz’s book, culture and Diaz’s inner nerd.

There were a couple discussion points in particular that are worth highlighting.

When Danticat asks Diaz why did he take so long to finish his book, he tells her that “the novel wouldn’t have it any other way.” This book was not some project that he could of worked on in anyway, but instead it was a consequence of the time he spent writing it and what he experienced as he wrote it. The way he talks about the process of writing his book, he does not refer to it as his creation so much as if it was its own being that he helped materialize.

I also enjoyed hearing the discussion around his character Oscar, and how while he may not be defined as a Dominican “by someone in the Dominican culture”, he is still representative of what Diaz sees as “Dominican”. This dissonance, and how Oscar treads the lines of representing and not representing an entire nation and culture, Diaz believes, is why he is such an attractive and intriguing character. He is a character that can represent the Dominican Republic, and to some degree does, but he falls under that category of people that “no one wants to build the image of a nation around”. But, how do you define a nation and build its image? More importantly, whose image is more credible?

I myself am an immigrant, like Diaz. Born to Sudanese parents in Saudi Arabia, I migrated to the U.S early in my childhood. As an immigrant, I’ve developed a sense and outlook on Sudanese culture that does not completely overlap with those shared by individuals who traditionally would be classified as more Sudanese than I. But that does not discredit my accounts of Sudanese culture, and in my writings about Sudanese customs and practices, my accounts are not inaccurate. Diaz shares how his experiences as a Dominican heavily influence his writing, but he also acknowledges that he is not a typical Dominican; he was a smart, nerdy boy that grew up in a poor neighborhood. But who is to say that his work isn’t Dominican? He built this character Oscar, who would be traditionally defined as non-Dominican, as a composite of the nerdy Dominican boys he grew up with. Is there a true Dominican culture, and are all those that write outside the framework of that culture not writing Dominican literature?

This is a great great interview and there is a lot of good stuff for those of you who are interested in multicultural fiction.

Coming To Terms with Our Writing

“There is no magic formula for overcoming this feeling of not good enough. In fact, it’s worth celebrating. It means you probably have good taste. But there are a few things you can do to work through this feeling and still get the job done.”

Why Your Work Never Feels Good Enough

In his blog post, Jeff Goins shares his opinions on where our self-doubt may come from, and how we can use it to keep writing.

l remember during my sophomore year of high school, we were assigned to write a  story. We all had 3 weeks to write our stories, and then we would all have to stand in front of our classmates and share our work. I spent the first few days trying to brainstorm ideas. I rejected a lot of my preliminary ones because they weren’t really fruitful. I wanted the perfect story. Something that was super meta and inspiring and thought-provoking and would change every kids outlook on life forever. I tried to think of witty characters and powerful themes. Finally after a week of scrapping ideas, I decided that for the interest of my grade, I needed to start writing. I eventually settled on a story about a boy who builds a treehouse. This treehouse was his escape from his alcoholic father and neglectful mother, who were both too self-absorbed to notice when their son spent hours outside of the house. I wanted my classmates to experience his despair. I wanted them to see this imaginary world of his, and I wanted these adventures to be so real that my classmates , like the boy, would believe they were actually on these adventures. I wrote, rewrote, re-rewrote and re-re-rewrote different portions of the story but I never felt like my story was what I saw in my own mind. The day before the actually readings our stories were due and I had to submit what I had. The next day, I read the story to my class. They gave me a B.

It’s difficult to come to terms with our writing. What I mean by “coming to terms” is accepting our writing for what it is. There is always some dissonance between what we imagined our work to be, and what eventually ends up on the page. We all want to produce our best work, and until our work reflects what we imagined we may feel like it’s falling short. High expectations can inspire great work, but it can also be detrimental to the creative process and hurt our writing. Sophomore me took a huge hit to the ego when I got my peer reviews back . Objectively speaking there is no fault in a B (our actually grades were determined by the teacher anyway), but it bothered me that I had spent so much time curating and perfecting this story only to have it shot down. It wasn’t till some time later when I wrote some more and I shared more of my work with my friends and family that I began to learn what I have in my head doesn’t matter. I should worry less about translating a story on paper that reflects my thoughts, but instead think about what story am I building in the mind of the reader. Things are always lost in translation, and that’s part of the beauty of literature; it’s personal. The story will never be to a reader what it is to the writer, nor will it be the same thing to another reader.

And to my sophomore English class, I’ll get over it one day.

Why Are We Even Hear?

But seriously though?

To be a good writer, it’s fairly obvious what you have to do. Read and write. A lot. But why the writer’s workshop? Why this specific format? Some argue that the workshop holds you accountable, and in that way you keep the writing hand strong. Our personal lives tend to get in the way, and the first thing to go so we can make room for our errands and our relationships is writing. Part of the reason why I took up the minor is because honestly, if it wasn’t for a class, I wasn’t going to be motivated to do it. But that doesn’t really answer the question. It answers why there should be some structured format that incentivizes people to produce work. But do we need 12-on-1 group therapy session were everyone picks apart the story you so masterfully put together? Why do your peers have to be a part of your writing?

What the workshop does is that it provides context for the work that we are doing. We may all write to satisfy something personal, but our work, to a varying degree, is intended for others. This means the workshop starts not at the start of the discussion, but before you even submit the story. Whether you are submitting a story you’ve already previous written, or you are writing a new one, you are actually the first to workshop your own work. Here lies, what I believe to be, the biggest benefit of the workshop. We start to more critically analyze how we introduce and develop a character’s backstory, or ask did we give enough context for the reader to believe what is on the page. We try to read our work through the lens of a reader. I don’t believe that while writing a story you should be worried about what people think of your writing (this only disrupts the creative process), but if people understand your writing. Is your writing doing what you intend for it to do? It is critically important to be able to make the distinction between these two and address the later. The second half of every workshop session is about how can the author make this story more itself. When you workshop yourself, you start learning how to make your writing more itself. You obviously know your work and what you intended. So while others may help you color some things in and iron a story out, you are the only one that can really make the story more itself because you are the only one who knows what the story “is”.

You may have heard people ask, “Can creative writing be taught? Can you actually teach someone how to write?” In the traditional sense of teaching, teaching someone how to write a story is difficult. Writing is personal and intimate discipline. But the workshop isn’t meant to teach us how to write. It’s meant to teach us how to think about our writing. The benefit isn’t how we can make our current work more complete, but how can we improve the quality of our future work.